Drivers of commercial trucks have a duty to operate their vehicle in a way that doesn’t endanger anyone else on the road. But the truth is that they often fail to comply with that duty, causing severe injuries and deaths in the process. The more trucks that are on the road, the higher the chances an accident will occur. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service rule is designed to reduce that risk.
The truck accident attorneys with Penn Kestner & McEwen have been in practice for a long time. The hours of service rule is extremely straightforward. Unfortunately, we’ve still seen far too many accidents caused by fatigued drivers.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident involving a fatigued truck driver, our firm will be ready to help. Just contact us online or give us a call at (800) 732-3070 to schedule a free consultation.
What Is the Hours of Service Rule?
Again, this rule is designed to reduce the chances that a fatigued truck driver will cause a devastating accident. The thinking behind the rule is obviously sound – limit the amount of time a trucker can stay behind the wheel. The less time a trucker is driving, the more time they will have to rest.
There are actually quite a few separate rules that comprise the overall hours of service rule. Here are a few of the more important ones.
- A commercial truck driver can drive for eight straight hours. At that point, they must take at least a 30-minute break.
- If a driver is transporting property, they must spend 10 straight hours off duty before driving for 11 consecutive hours. If that driver is carrying passengers, they must have eight straight hours off duty before driving for 10 consecutive hours.
- Truck drivers are only allowed to drive for 60 hours spanning seven consecutive days. Or 70 hours spanning eight consecutive days.
Why is the Hours of Service Rule Important?
Not every truck driver error can be attributed to fatigue. A trucker could be driving too fast in order to try to make a deadline, or could even be impaired while behind the wheel. But the hours of service rule is critically important because it can help ensure drivers don’t operate these huge vehicles for an unsafe amount of time.
Who Has to Obey the Hours of Service Rule?
Every driver of a commercial motor vehicle, such as a bus driver, has to comply with the hours of service rule. If the driver is using the vehicle for “personal conveyance,” such as taking it to and from work, or to go to a place on their personal time, they must be recorded as “off duty.”
What Happens When the Hours of Service Rule Is Violated?
The penalties for violating the hours of service rule can be steep. The driver will not be allowed to operate any kind of commercial motor vehicle until they have spent enough time off duty to comply with the rule. If the trucking company either encourages or forces a driver to violate the rule, it could see its safety rating reduced.
But the real punishment lies in the fines that drivers and trucking companies may have to pay. Depending on how severe the violation is, they could face a fine of as much as $14,700 – per violation. If trucking carriers are found to willfully or knowingly allow hours of service violations, their executives could even face federal criminal charges.
Who Can Be Held Liable for an Hours of Service Rule Violation?
There are different parties that could face liability if a truck accident takes place. If there’s a violation, the truck driver as well as the carrier could be held liable.
But how would you go about proving that a violation occurred? You would have to contact an experienced attorney. Your legal representative can perform a detailed investigation of the accident. This will involve taking a close look at what the driver did – or didn’t do – to contribute to the wreck.
For example, your attorney can obtain the driver’s log book. Truck drivers are required by law to record the amount of time they’re behind the wheel. Additionally, they must also record the time they’re on break.
The investigation can also determine whether or not the trucking company either encouraged or flat-out ordered the driver to violate the hours of service rule. The best way to do that is usually to determine if the trucking company imposed a deadline the truck driver could not realistically meet. Your legal representative will be able to obtain the carrier’s delivery policies and schedules to see if the company was in violation.
There are some instances where a carrier will try to escape liability by trying to claim the driver wasn’t an employee. Instead, the driver would be classified as an independent contractor. That way, they can shift all of the blame to the person who was operating the truck. If that happens, your attorney will be able to obtain a copy of the driver’s employment terms.
These are things that a non-attorney simply can’t do. Especially someone who has suffered a severe injury in a truck accident. That’s just one of the reasons why it will be so important that you contact an attorney ASAP.
Contact the Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers at Penn Kestner & McEwen
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a truck accident, or you’ve suffered the tragic loss of a loved one, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Penn Kestner & McEwen. We will work passionately on your behalf in an effort to help you obtain full and fair compensation.
Our attorneys have the experience and skill it takes to beat huge trucking companies, as well as the insurers that cover them. We will dig deep to find out if an hours of service violation occurred that contributed to the accident.